ONS well-being report reveals UK's happiness ratings

Woman smiling Critics have questioned whether well-being can be measured

Related Stories

People who are married, have jobs and own their own homes are the most likely to be satisfied with their lives, the first national well-being survey says.

The Office for National Statistics data also suggests people in Wales and England are less satisfied than people in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Teenagers and those above retirement age are the happiest, the ONS suggests.

The survey is an effort to produce an alternative measure of national performance to Gross Domestic Product.

Prime Minister David Cameron has described it as crucial to finding out what the government can do to "really improve lives" - but Labour ridiculed the survey as a "statement of the bleeding obvious".

Three quarters of people aged 16 and over in the UK rated their overall "life satisfaction" as seven or more, with women more likely to report higher levels of well-being and a sense that their life is "worthwhile" than men but also higher levels of anxiety.

England and Wales had similar proportion of adults giving a low rating for "life satisfaction" - 24.3% and 25.3% respectively.

There were fewer people with low life satisfaction in Scotland (22.6%) and Northern Ireland (21.6%) - and fewer Northern Irish people gave a high rating when asked if they were "anxious yesterday" than the rest of the UK.

There is a risk of jumping to conclusions with today's well-being figures. We know that people in rented accommodation report significantly lower levels of life satisfaction than home-owners. But that doesn't mean renting is bad for your happiness.

All we can say is that there may be something about the kind of people who rent their homes that makes it more likely they will have lower levels of well-being. Home-owners are generally financially better off than people who rent and they are more likely to be in a stable relationship - both factors that are also associated with higher levels of life satisfaction.

As well as needing to be careful about the difference between correlation and causation, there is also a danger of misreading the "direction of causation". For example, it is known that married people tend to be much more content than people who have been through a divorce. But does divorce make people unhappy or could it be that unhappy people are more likely to divorce?

As a general trend, people were the most satisfied with life in their teenage years and when they reached retirement age, with happiness levels dipping during middle age.

Those aged 16 to 19 and 65 to 79 reported satisfaction levels considerably higher than the UK average of 7.4 out of 10.

People living in built-up or former industrial areas, such as South Wales, the West Midlands or London, tended to be less happy, while rural areas, such as Orkney and Shetland, and Rutland, in the East Midlands, were the happiest.

When broken down by marital status, married people were the most satisfied with their lives, followed by cohabitees, then single people, widows/widowers and people who were divorced.

Being healthy was also an important factor but does not guarantee happiness, the survey suggests, with 18% of those who reported good or very good health reporting low satisfaction with life overall, while 38% of those with bad health reported high or medium levels of satisfaction with life.

Some 45% of unemployed people rated their "life satisfaction" as below 7 out of 10. Among employed people the figure was 20%.

The survey of 165,000 people between April 2011 and March 2012 also found that where people lived was a crucial factor in whether they were happy or not.

A higher proportion of adults who owned their own property, either outright or with a mortgage, reported a medium/high level of life satisfaction - about 80% - than those who rented or had other kinds of tenures (about 68%).

But factors such as noise levels, public transport, crime, whether they felt safe walking home alone after dark and access to parks and open spaces also had an influence on happiness levels, the survey found.

The ethnic group with the lowest satisfaction rating was "Black/African/Caribbean/Black British", with an average rating of 6.7 out of 10. The highest was "Indian", with 7.5 out of 10.

Average life satisfaction by ethnic group

  • Indian - 7.5
  • White - 7.4
  • Chinese - 7.4
  • Any other Asian background - 7.4
  • Pakistani - 7.2
  • Other ethnic group - 7.2
  • Arab - 7.1
  • Mixed ethnic - 7.1
  • Arab - 7.1
  • Black/African/Caribbean/Black British - 6.7

The scheme aims to provide a better understanding of how society is doing, and could help form future government policy.

ONS wellbeing project director Glenn Everett said: "By examining and analysing both objective statistics as well as subjective information, a more complete picture of national well-being can be formed.

"Understanding people's views of well-being is an important addition to existing official statistics and has potential uses in the policy making process and to aid other decision making."

But Labour said it did not take a well-being survey to know that Mr Cameron was "taking Britain in the wrong direction".

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Michael Dugher said: "This is a statement of the bleeding obvious, a waste of taxpayers' money and it makes ministers look even more out of touch.

"You don't need a 'happiness index' to know that people without a job are unhappier than people in work - and we have over a million young people unemployed."

Steve Davies, from the Institute of Economic Affairs, also questioned the survey's aims, saying: "The government may be able to broadly do some things at the aggregate level that will make people less likely to be miserable.

"But it seems to me that we have enough trouble with governments trying to target something like GDP which we understand quite well without them having to try and target aggregate well-being as well.

"So I actually think that this could be quite dangerous because it could lead to government interfering in all sorts of aspects of people's personal life and I wouldn't like to go there."

Map showing levels of happiness across the UK

Top five happiest areas in the UK

Ranking Area Happiness (Score 7-10)*

* - Percentages show how many people rated their happiness between 7 and 10


Eilean Siar, Orkney & Shetland












West Berkshire


Bottom 5 least happy areas in the UK

Ranking Happiness (Score 7-10)*

* - Percentages show how many people rated their happiness between 7 and 10


North Ayrshire



Blaenau Gwent






County Durham






More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 551.

    If you analyse human nature very carefully, it all boils down to generation and satisfaction of need.

    Even non-material things like relationships and kids, concepts like pride and self-respect are seated in desire. When we obtain them, we get "happiness" .

    A truely non-materialistic person, such as a 4th stage hindu, will not even recognise happiness as a valid emotional state.

  • rate this

    Comment number 550.

    as 457 says, remarkably silly.

    If the average height in the UK was about 5ft 8in, that doesn't mean everyone is so tall or would even like to be. Similarly with this daft survey - 63.5% of people in Blackpool are in the top happiness group, and what does that tell you about any individual in Blackpool? Next to nothing. I'm sure it wasn't the statisticians who came out with these daft headlines.

  • rate this

    Comment number 549.

    546.voice of reason

    "Happiness is obvious - it is obtained the moment you secure the thing(s) that you desperately want, but by definition, you then start on the decline as you develop new desires."

    I think being human and happy is a little more complex than that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 548.

    I live in Budleigh Salterton and I am very happy!!!!!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 547.

    I do not know what the units of measurement of 'happiness' are but I do know that the level of depression I suffer is proportional to the amount of meddling Government Departments make in my life. Mind you, if they speeded up their interference, that would certainly help. And people wonder why I drink alcohol and smoke. Ha!

  • rate this

    Comment number 546.

    I cant believe the intensity and level of soul searching going on here.

    Happiness is obvious - it is obtained the moment you secure the thing(s) that you desperately want, but by definition, you then start on the decline as you develop new desires.

    Happiness comes and goes in rhythm with your ability to satisf your needs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 545.

    Strangely I am most happy on my yearly trip to, bottom of the rankings, Blackpool.

    Happiness is a state of mind not a place.

  • rate this

    Comment number 544.

    The ONS should do their next survey on Facebook. Absolutely everybody is happy there ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 543.

    Ah well, at least it distracts the citizens of GB from the real problems of the day - like how are we going to divest ourselves of the gang at Westminster - all of them!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 542.

    My friend Corky always has a smile on his face!

  • rate this

    Comment number 541.

    I have no car, house, fancy phone or career as such-alas i am happy. It's called not being materialistic. I save, travel independently and volunteer when i can. My sacrifice was all the article pro-claims makes us happy! The irony. I live with parents and i'm 32, obviously this is sporadic. If owning a house and having a family makes us happy then i'll stick to freedom thanks! Good old consumerism

  • rate this

    Comment number 540.

    I'm really happy. I live in a country where you're 30 times more likely to be killed by the police than a terrorist, where politicians are both corrupt and self-serving, and where the greed of a generation means that our young people can look forward to a lifetime of indebtedness and slavery to a slumlord.

  • rate this

    Comment number 539.

    Meh, I'm on minimum wage, I live in a rabbit hutch that's apparently meant to be a home and have a volatile relationship with the woman I love, but you know what? I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm most happy when I'm most sad, I revel in melancholy. And I know I'm not the only one out there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 538.

    523. voice of reason
    My idea of happiness...
    A wife that looks like Charlize Theron but cooks like Nigella,


    My idea of happiness;

    A wife who is as attractive as Nigella Lawson,

    as charming as Nigella Lawson,

    as ....

    Oh ... just to have a wife who is Nigella Lawson, with extra toffee!

  • rate this

    Comment number 537.

    Money doesnt make you happy, but if you gotta be unhappy you might as well be rich...

  • rate this

    Comment number 536.

    ONS well-being report reveals UK's happiness ratings.
    My happiness rating.
    A Government that cares about the UK people who pay their taxes.
    A Government who cares about the UK people who fought its wars.
    A Government that cares about the UK people who are being squeezed out regular jobs by others that are here for the money, only to return to their Country of origin, in real terms, very wealthy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 535.

    An excuse, if one were needed, not to go to Blackpool!

  • rate this

    Comment number 534.

    'All we can say is that there may be something about the kind of people who rent their homes that makes it more likely they will have lower levels of well-being'.
    What exactly in this survey suggests anything of the sort, Mark Easton - about the 'kind' of people?
    Labour are right for once - this survey is pretty much a statement of the bleeding obvious.

  • rate this

    Comment number 533.


    Where do you get these kinds of women,I have never had the pleasure of any like this,Im crossing everything and really wishing hard.

  • rate this

    Comment number 532.

    Sitting on a roof in Kabul 30 odd years ago watching the sun go down,surrounded by friends from all corners of the earth,each sharing a vision infinitessimally greater than any modern day suited warmongering oaf/clone could ever hope to find in their wildest dreams.

    This was post flower power,incidentally,as even I'm too young to have consciously experienced that.


Page 7 of 34


More Politics stories



Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.